In the period right after World War II, Smith & Wesson developed a line of modern revolvers. This was in an effort to dominate the market against its main competitor, Colt Firearms. The company was quite successful in that effort, as it came up with a line of new and old calibers with classic features. One such feature was Target grips, seen the first time on K- and N-frame revolvers introduced in the 1950s. The earliest versions were in a shape now referred to as Coke Bottle Grips and abbreviated as “CBGs.” When you think about it for a minute, the name is a good one. Coca-Cola, a legendary carbonated beverage, originally came in a unique bottle. That bottle featured a palm swell in the center and an outward flare at the bottom. It was easy to handle, even when cold and slippery, theoretically making it more desirable. Lots of Coke has been sold and most of it now comes in an aluminum can. Go figure.
To S&W fans and collectors, it was a black day when the company phased out the CBGs in favor of an easier-to-make, flat-sided Target grip. While the original CBG may have been minimally more effective than its successor, the appearance of the grip was much better. I think much of the appeal of the CBG was the time in which it was made, as well as the way it was finished and fitted to the gun. Those original CBGs were made in a stocking room-a loft, really-at the plant in Springfield. I was lucky enough to visit that room on my first trip to the Roosevelt Street plant in 1988. At that point in time, the CBGs were gone. The originals were made of walnut or rosewood, with a rare South American wood called Goncalo Alves as a later addition. They were nicely checkered and had a distinctive diamond around the screw hole. Long out of production, S&W’s classic Coke Bottle Grips bring seemingly crazy prices on the internet.
To my considerable pleasure, I have found a source for brand new ones. Ohioan Keith Brown, a woodcrafter of great skill now makes new CBGs. They are clearly of better quality than the original factory ones. That’s a strong statement, but a closer look at the provided sample shows superb inletting and exterior shaping, as well as checkering that is flawless. Even the placement of the medallions is perfect. On a nice block of Goncalo Alves, the grips are a fine addition to any N Frame. Brown’s work is not limited to CBGs. His website shows modern renderings of classic customs like Roper and Kearsarge grips. The man is a craftsman of the highest order and deserves our attention.